The Spiral of Silence: Linking Individual and Society Through Communication
Charles T. Salmon and Chi-Yung Moh
Communication is at the very heart of the fundamental tension between individual liberties and societal boundaries. This tension is readily apparent in totalitarian regimes in which the interests of the individual are clearly subordinate to those of the state. However, as the title of a book by two Harvard Medical School professors, Drug Control in a Free Society ( Bakalar & Grinspoon, 1984), illustrates, the tension is apparent in democracies as well, where it exists as something of a paradox: It represents conflict between societal limitations on individual freedom in a society dedicated to preserving individual freedoms.
We witness the manifestations of this tension in everyday life. It appears in conflicts between individuals who wish to smoke tobacco and a society that has defined those individuals as "social pariahs" and threatened them with loss of employment and condemnation by their peers ( Levin, 1987); individuals who wish to make statements deemed offensive to persons of different gender or race and a society that has defined those individuals as engaging in unacceptable conduct; 1 and individuals who wish to induce major structural change in democratic institutions and a society that has marginalized those individuals as radicals or anarchists and hence not worthy of serious attention (e.g., see Gitlin, 1980).
Perhaps the most elaborate articulation of the role of communication in the dynamic between individual and society is that provided by